Friday, January 22, 2010

Quite a missionary sort of day

Before today's lunchtime Eucharist I had a meeting with James Karran of Solace Pub Church and Trystan Hughes, University Anglican Chaplain, to start planning a second Good Friday evening outreach programme from St John's. Last year's event was a creative experiment which saw a team of young adults engaging with evening passers by, en route to pubs and clubs, inviting them to step into the church to partake of a multimedia exposition of the meaning of the Cross of Christ. The fact that it happened at all is remarkable, and that it drew in curious people, and provided a platform for dialogue with a few who might never have noticed it was Good Friday, or had any idea about its meaning.

This is what I regard us front line evangelism. It's hard work, and consumes time, energy and resources. There's no point asking if it's worth it in term of numbers through the door, conversions, or any other kind of result beloved of accountants. The very fact that a group of people are fired up to make the effort to communicate what gives meaning to their lives in an indifferent environment, is of immeasurable value. Those with a mission learn by doing, through the many exchanges involved in both the planning and execution of such an event. In the process, many different lives are touched.

This is equally applicable to those of us who devote a large part of our lives to maintaining and protecting a large ancient sacred space in the middle of a modern city. We do what's needed to make it possible for others who don't look at life from our perspective to be exposed to divine graciousness - whether through the beauty and silence of holiness, or through the telling and re-telling of God's story in Jesus. Evangelism has many dimensions. Those with a passion for it can recognise each other and find a way to work together - although not without difficulties if culture differences are large. Although Pub Church and the University Chaplaincy are as different from each other as they are from St John's, all three are set within the heart of the city. All have a desire to reach out to those who are in the city, no matter for how long or short their stay.

After the lunchtime Eucharist, I drove up to Aberfan in Merthyr Vale, to visit the Megabyes Internet Café, the home of the Aberfan and Merthyr Vale Youth and Community Project. I'd been invited there to accompany one of the Novascarman 'tech guys', the Digital Inclusion team that works on bringing information technology to socially deprived areas. At street level, the café serves food. Down in the basement, the café has a network of ten computers, freely available to any person in the locality to needs to use a computer or help with using a computer to develop their skills or enhance their employability. I'm starting to learn about this uniquely contemporary side to community development because I'm interested in social uses of technology, and hope to support the project as a volunteer when I retire. I really enjoyed meeting the people involved, and being an apprentice to someone nearly half my age, for a change.

The evening was taken up with our annual Christian Unity Week supper and act of worship at City United Reformed Church. Eighty people took part this year, and everyone was pleased to be there and hear Major Peter Moran give us a stimulating and funny after dinner talk about the origin of his organisation, the Salvation Army. Looking back on a busy day, it seems that mission and outreach characterised everything I was involved with. A refreshing change.

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